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Category Archives: Paver Patio

Techo-bloc Paver Patio and landscape design

Techo-bloc paver patio  projects require good landscape design.  What are the key elements for patio design ? What are the key elements for landscape design? Techo-bloc materials include many choices. So the first key element is a knowledge of the paver choices.  The design style will inform the paver choice.

Techo-bloc Paver Patio
Techo-bloc Paver Patio

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Chocies

The project pictures above uses the EVA paver with a Antika paver border. The EVA paver is a random rectangular pattern. It comes in a variety of blended colors. The Antika paver has a rustic cobblestone appearance. The Antika paver joints are large. A drawback can be weeds. So we use Antika sparingly. For a more contemporary design we would use Industria, Linea or Sleek paver styles.

Patio and Landscape Design

Design is the bread and butter of a success landscape project. Plenty of  hardscape companies have skilled craftsman. But very few landscape companies have skilled landscape designers. What makes a skilled landscape designer?  Part of the skill is innate talent and part is training.

The most skilled landscape designers have an ability to see the land holistically.  They perceive the spaces of the home and the landscape as one unified space.  This means the designer can understand the flow of activity and uses throughout a property. It is a skill of seeing the big picture. An understanding of how all the parts fit together. This is a way of thinking developed since youth. It is very hard to train this skill.

Landscape designers are choreographers. They design flow of movement through spaces. Design is a dance. Patios are a dance floor. And the dances can be cooking, eating, and entertaining.  A good landscape designer knows how to build a good dance floor that works smoothly.

The best landscape designers are typically trained in Landscape Architecture. Look for a landscape architecture degree from an accredited university .  The degree is only a piece of the overall qualification. Who did they train with after college? Are they members of the American Society of Landscape Architects?  Have they won  landscape awards?

A good  landscape designer is artistic and creative. He thinks outside the box. She practices several art forms. Does your landscape architect also paint? Does she play an instrument?

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Design

First step in patio design is program. How do you plan to use the patio? Are you planning an outdoor kitchen? Or a small patio  sitting outside? Write out your entire program carefully. Have that for your landscape designer.

Do you have a Techo-bloc paver catalog?  You should go through it carefully. Highlight the products that catch your eye. Mark the project images that you like. Have that ready to show your hardscape contractor.  For Allentown Landscape Companies get your catalog at AB Stone. 

Think about all the options for patio location. Maybe it is best right by the back door. But you may also want the patio to be a destination.  We like to design the patio far enough from the home to feel like a separate space.  After all, you are going outside to get out of the house. We prefer to put some landscape plantings between the patio and the home. This creates the  ‘Outdoor Room’ character.

Is your patio area flat? If it is not, you may need steps and walls. This will add significant cost. But also adds dynamic character to the patio project. Walls and steps can allow for seating or for pots and urns.  Techo-bloc offers plenty of wall and step products that go with your pavers.

Landscape plantings make a patio a rich outdoor room.  Trees and shrubs create the boundaries of the space. Perennials provide color and textures.  Does your landscape designer know their plants?

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Allentown

Allentown hardscape companies tend to buy product from AB Stone. They have a good Techo-bloc paver patio display for homeowners. The patio displays show the range of paves styles and colors.  Meet your landscape designer there and make societies together.  Ask the staff at AB Stone about your hardscape contractor. Do they pay their bills on time? Do they have a good reputation with customers?

 

Techo Bloc Paver Projects

Techo Bloc Paver
Techo Bloc Paver Project

We have used many concrete paver products over the years, but today it’s all Techo Bloc paver projects. We find that Techo Bloc paver is the cutting edge of both design and quality. The Techo Bloc company  is a leader in contractor support. They provide annual training seminars and the customer representatives are very accessible.  And our local supplier AB Stone is a valued partner. The display paver patios and walkways at AB Stone help our clients pick the right Techo Bloc product for their project.

The project in this article uses three types of Techo Bloc pavers. The pavilion and outdoor kitchen are arranged over a Techo Bloc Travertina slab. The pavilion is a custom designed project with 18′ spacing between the posts. This allowed for a more flexible space to accommodate outdoor living. The Travertina patio has an outdoor kitchen by GenSun.

The steps from the home are Techo Bloc mini creta bloc. The treads are made with Techo Bloc Piedmonte caps. This wide set of steps allows for versatile access to the landscape project. A raised patio is placed adjacent to the house. This was required because of a root cellar below. But the constraint lead to a unique design outcome. The rocking chairs make cozy patio for two.

Eva paver
Techo Bloc Steps and EVA patio

Steps lead down to the causal patio with Techo Bloc Eva pavers. The permieter of that patio has Antika pavers. The contrasting pavers make a unique patio. This one is not like any other. Techo bloc offers a very wide and unique range of products. That allows for this sort of custom patio. The range of paver products gives the homeowner and landscape designer options. And Techo Bloc products have some of the best colors and textures available.

Antika Paver
Antika and Eva Techo Bloc Pavers

Techo bloc continues to innovate. And their new products offer exciting options. Check out the link above to review all the products and ideas. Then call us to design and install your Techo Bloc paver projects.

Antika and Eva
Antika Paver & Eva Paver

Paver Patio

 

Techo Bloc
Paver Patio Contractor

Are you thinking about installing a paver patio and searching the web for information? Want to know how to install paver patio? Do you want some knowledge and experience from professional paver patio contractors?

What are the pros and cons of a paver patio versus my other patio contractor choices? Paver patios are installed on a compacted layer of modified stone. The benefit is flexibility to move with larger ground movements. But, no matter how perfect your paver patio installer can be, over time a paver patio will move, settle and migrate to some degree. But, since the concrete pavers are dry set on a stone base, the fix is not difficult or expensive. If you install a paver patio, plan for a restoration project in about 10 years.  Concrete pavers don’t usually age all that gracefully. The top finish wears off and they can become dull and unattractive. This is less true with each new product that improves on the older technology, But if you want to keep the pavers looking their best, you should pressure wash and apply a sealer every two or three years.

Can an untrained homeowner install a paver patio? Yes, if they are experienced in related types of landscape construction. It’s hard work, but it is not rocket science. You will need some specialized tools to install your own paver patio. You can rent those hardscaping tools. First big challenge is where to put all the soil once you dig out for the stone base. You need to big out about 12″ deep and until you reach virgin compacted soil. Then you’ll need to get the modified stone delivered and compacted in place. Proper compaction is essential to a quality paver patio. You must have a mechanical plate tamper with appropriate psi compaction rates. The next big challenge is to create a level setting bed. Paver patio contractors use steel pipes and screed boards to make sure the patio is smooth with a slight grade for drainage. If you can get that fer, you done the hardest technical part. Now the hardest labor part of setting each paver. The up and down on the knees. The lifting and the hauling. the repetitive motion is tough on bodies that don’t do professional landscpae contractor work each day. You will need to rent a stone cutting saw to cut paver as needed. That is a dusty and dangerous job. Finally, when sweeping in the polymeric sand make sure and get it precisely in the cracks. Make sure that you rinse the paver tops absolutely when wetting the sand into place. If not, polymeric sand residue will stain the pavers. You can probably teel we think it best that a professional paver patio contractor do the work.

Many of our new clients call because they want a paver patio. In Allentown, Emmaus, Lower Macungie and the Lehigh Valley, paver patio is the the most common request for outdoor hardscaping projects. Garden Design Inc. are paver patio contractors specializing in Techo bloc pavers for landscape design and landscape contractors projects. You can review our paver patio ideas on Houzz.

 

How much does a Paver Patio Cost? – The influence of Labor Costs

paver patio
Paver Patio in Lower Macungie

How much does a paver patio cost ? A standard concrete paver patio cost in the landscape client anywhere from $14 per square foot to $25 per square foot in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. If you want a specific price and not a broad price range for your patio project, go to one of the many HomeInfo type websites. They will give a very narrow price range for the question ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. But, they aren’t accurate and don’t account for the broad range of landscape design and landscape construction factors of each unique patio landscape project. Those sites list prices at least 20% less than built project pricing. If you want to understand the more complex factors of a paver patio price and why the range is so broad, keep reading. This first article will focus on the cost of landscape labor in relation to the price per square foot for a concrete paver patio in the Allentown region.

First let me qualify my experiences and knowledge base with regard to these price ranges for concrete paver patios. Those price per square foot price ranges are based on over 30 years of real world professional experience in four different states across the country. It is also based on conversations with other professional associates in this hardscaping industry; professionals who practice in California, North Carolina, Maryland and more diverse locations. Finally, it is based on conversations with concrete paver manufacturing companies who are knowledgeable of the range of landscape contractor pricing for paver patios in Allentown, Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem.

patio allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Construction Allentown

This discussion is specifically about paver patio pricing in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. And more specifically it pertains to paver patio pricing in Allentown, Lower Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem area landscape projects. When combined, the Lehigh Valley is the third largest metropolitan region in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Location affects labor costs which are the first factor in paver patio pricing. Though the discussion of landscape labor costs relate specifically the Lehigh Valley, the principles can be applied anywhere.

Labor is the most significant and most varied cost involved in a paver patio project. The skilled landscape labor force in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton is competitive since the areas unemployment is low. This means landscape labor costs are higher than many other regions. Local business owners report that finding qualified labor is the biggest landscape business challenge. Average wages for a hardscape professional are high compared to other moderately trained physical labor. Not only is labor is the most significant cost in the price of a paver patio, it is also the most significant factor for the quality of the patio when completed.

Labor cost variations influence the range of the square foot price for a concrete paver patio. Landscape clients can hire a patio landscape company from the Allentown area who will build a paver patio for $14/sf. Those companies will pay their employees the lowest wages and thus generally have the least experienced installers. They are likely younger, less experienced and unsupervised. They may have high employee turnover and a work culture of ‘who cares’ because they are just there for now and will move on to a better job soon enough, with higher pay. The cuts will be less accurate, the joints less tight, and the base less well compacted. An established, reputable landscape company in Allentown may charge $18/sf for the same patio. Such a landscape company will have employees who have been with the company for some years and are loyal because they are treated well and paid fairly. Employees who are dedicated to a company are also dedicated to a quality product because they realize the employee and the company survive and grow together. Reputable, established companies take the time required to ensure high quality so that the patio lasts. Supervision, safety and benefits all help the professional patio installer create a better quality patio. You may pay more up front, but in the long run you will save money by note having to repair and replace. When picking a company, ask about the employees. How long have they been with the company? What benefits are offered? Get to know your landscape contractor and the company culture. Then you can find that balance of price and quality with regard to labor costs and what the employees are paid.

The cost of overhead is the next labor factor in the price of a patio. The least expensive overhead is often a company where the owner does the paver patio installation along with a helper or two. They may operate out of the owner’s home property further reducing overhead costs. The owner likely wears all the hats with the help of a part time bookkeeper/accountant. Design is seldom as creatively and thoroughly addressed up front as the creativity can happen during the process with the owner hands on. That has many draw backs, and some benefits. This owner/operator is less often trained in business or landscape design, but may have a unique natural ability in those areas. But be careful, a company like that can be more expensive. Since the owner is out doing the work, that on the job labor cost is high.

The highest cost landscape patio companies are front office heavy with an owner(s), a business manager, a designer and a bookkeeper.  They tend to have larger property and equipment overheads to manage and thus employee fleet managers and yard staff. They will tend to be at the most expensive end of the paver patio price range because all those indirect labor costs must be covered in your paver patio price. They tend to leak money at all the edges, duplicate tasks, and have bloated payrolls. In theory, this can be overcome if the company can maintain high volumes of sales and create an economy of scale. My experience and observation is shows that to be the rare exception.

patio design allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Design Allentown

Somewhere between the owner/operator and the corporate large company is the tightly run professional landscape design build company. The owner may have a college degree and be a capable business man, landscape designer and people manager. She runs a tight ship, works lots of hours and wears many hats well. The client has a direct personal relationship with the owner during the entire design and construction process. And there is a clear line of responsibility for quality. These companies can have a ‘family’ type work culture resulting in the highest levels of loyalty and dedication to quality. Generally, this scenario yields the best price to quality ratio. In the Allentown, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Lower Macungie areas, paver patios may cost in the $18 to $22 per square foot for a small professional landscape company where the owner wears many hats but does not do the actual construction.

These generalizations are intended to share a framework of thoughts regarding the general price range of a paver patio in the Allentown region. If you are considering a landscpae project, ask the salesman ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. How they answer will shed light on the type of company you are dealing with. There are exceptions to the three categories. I know of large corporate companies, small owner/operators, and landscape design build companies that all build a quality product at a very competitive and similar price. This discussion of landscape labor in relation to paver patio pricing is intended to encourage the potential patio buyer to research a company’s labor culture. Ask how long employees have been with the company. Ask the companies philosophy about labor. Does the employee work for the company or does the company work for the employee and the client? Get to know who will build your patio. Are the landscape technicians polite, neat and organized, reputable and safe? Do they respect the company, like working with the company, plan to stay? Focus first on labor quality and costs in the process of determining the cost to value balance in paver patio pricing.

 

Landscape Plantings & Patios – How to Create Balance

The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.
The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.

How do we develop landscape designs that balance landscape plantings and patios? Balance is one of the key design principles in landscape architecture, and without it, design lacks a primary component. A strong sense of balance between hardscape and plant life can truly bring a design together and transform a formerly plain and uninteresting landscape into a beautiful oasis. Designing with vegetation is always a primary focus, but how does hardscape play a factor in balancing design? In short, hardscape breaks up the potential monotony of vegetated plantings. It provides some structure to an organic flow of vegetated spaces. Hardscape can be defined as man-made structures or elements in a design, and in residential landscape design, materials such as brick, concrete, pavers, etc are common forms of hardscape. Hardscape colors, shapes, and patterns leave a designer with a number of design opportunities making it such a popular design element.

Concrete is the most commonly used hardscape, mainly for its versatility. It often comes poured, but it can come in a variety of colors. Brick more often than not, is manufactured as a bright red, and with a majority of planting emitting a contrasting color of green, the red will easily stand out in comparison to most other hardscape materials. While it can be used solely on its own, one interesting look that some residences are trying is using the brick red as an accent color. Designing a concrete walkway with neutral tones mixed with an outer brick edge, can soften the brick but also brighten the neutral concrete.

Other materials, such as flagstone or bluestone and natural stone tend to work well when designing patios. Hardscape can promote the design of patios, creating great outdoor living spaces without the woody appearance of a deck, for example. Stone walls can create enclosures, creating separate spaces within the landscape. Whether the hardscape becomes the home of an eating area for families or a fire pit gathering for a group of friends, the size, shape, and style are completely up to the user.

Taking a look at Techo Bloc, a landscaping supplier, they offer many products that can personalize a landscape. Pavers, walls, and many other forms of masonry are available for purchase. Some of my personal favorite hardscape designs consist of block pavers that are broken up using grass or fine gravel. This breaks up the monotony of a solid, flat hardscape, and it allows the user to notice a change in ground type.

Aside from the hardscape, the plant selection and other softscape materials  play just as important of a role in design. Selecting vegetation and hardscape of a corresponding color scheme is typically a good place to start. Think of vegetation possibly some mulching that can be used to soften hardscape edges. Or perhaps, you want the hardscape to stand on its own, and the use of seating and landscape planters can create an interesting design. Balancing hardscape and softscape with take some experimentation, but a successful design is always possible.

Paver Patio and Timber Frame Pergola Project

pergola, patio, landscape
a quaint backyard landscape in Allentown pa

Timber frame pergola. Garden Design Inc. completed the  timber frame pergola project pictured in Allentown PA, during the summer of 2014. The client contacted us to review ideas for creating a new outdoor living space. She started with the idea of a new patio in her backyard and a place to put a grill. The property had more opportunities for outdoor living than just a patio installation. The first step was to determine the clients budget. Once she expressed an interest in spending more than just a patio would cost, we began to discuss the range of additional project features.

The first constraint was a large cherry tree very close to her sunroom addition. It limited the flow and use of the adjacent space, and it made a big mess in areas she wanted to have patio space. But, it also provided shade. I suggested the possibility of removing the tree and installing a pergola overhead. The pergola would provide some shade and define the outdoor room adjacent to the sunroom. The client liked the idea and thus we added that additional design direction and element. The next constraint was how and where to put the grill. Since she was in the market for a new grill anyway, I suggested a built in outdoor kitchen. Nothing extravagant, just a simple grill station. The built in element would allow for a more unified design.

The client is an active gardener and has an eclectic backyard landscape. The plantings and the elements are organic in form and character with nothing being formalistic. Reflecting that aesthetic, we designed a timber frame pergola constructed with rough, large Douglas fir lumber. The pergola would be constructed in the timber frame approach with mortise and tenon joints, pegs and wood brackets. It will be allowed to turn grey naturally and not be oiled to maintain the yellow, new cut color. The pergola is designed architecturally as an extension of the sun room and the two sliding doors leading to the landscape.

The outdoor kitchen was designed with enough space to function as a grill station and allow for a bar overhang at one end. The overhang bar seating area accommodates two stools so a couple guests can visit with the cook while she is grilling. Or, the grandchildren can eat at the bar while the adults eat at the outdoor dining table. The grill itself is professional quality Delta Heat. Delta Heat grills are a great quality for perhaps the lowest price in the professional grill range. The countertop is granite and a propane line was run tot he outdoor kitchen to eliminate the need to switch grill tanks.

The patio is designed with two levels. The upper main patio includes the pergola area and the outdoor kitchen. The lower patio is oriented to the pond. The client picked a CST ‘Ridgestone’ concrete paver with a natural cleft finish. The edges of the patio have curb stone to hold the planting beds and define the patio form. Outdoor lighting was installed in the step risers and path lights were installed around the patio. Kichler landscape lighting fixtures were chosen by the client.

The end result was a quaint outdoor living space with unique architectural elements to define the use and character. We enjoyed working with the client during the landscape design process and the landscape construction phase of the project.

 

 

Concrete Patios – Landscape Design

cocnrete patio_allentown pa
Concrete patios for landscape design

With the popularity of concrete paver patios, many homeowners neglect to closely review the options for concrete patios. The mention of a concrete patio can bring to mind the boring white slab tacked onto the back of a house. But concrete patios can be designed in dynamic and interesting forms. In some modern or contemporary landscape design aesthetics, concrete is a more appropriate choice. Concrete technologies have also evolved to include aesthetically attractive finish options. Installed properly, a concrete patio is a low maintenance and cost conscious approach to building an outdoor living space in your landscape projects.

Concrete patios offer a clean, simple and elegant opportunity when a modern landscape design aesthetic is preferred. It offers the opportunity to create large seamless slabs, simple flat colors and strong geometric patterns with cut expansion joints. That style cannot be achieved with the numerous pieces of a modular concrete paver.

Poured in place concrete patios involve less maintenance material than the concrete paver. With all the joints in a paver patio, individual pieces may settle or shift and moss or weeds may grow in the joints. Concrete paver patios need to be pressure washed and have new joint sand added to keep a fresh and clean appearance. Done properly, a concrete patio eliminates those maintenance issues indicative of a paver patio.

Concrete patios are around 25% less expensive than a paver patio. That cost saving will vary by 5-10% depending on the project site access and the finish style. A stamped concrete patio will cost more than a textured concrete patio. A textured concrete patio will cost more than a flat finish patio. Concrete patio’s also require less installation time and expedite a projects completion.

I personally am do not like stamped concrete finishes. The illusion never works and the result always looks contrived when the stamps try to make a concrete look like brick or flagstone. However, I do like the result if the stamp is simple and geometric, meant only to create a pattern and not the appearance it is something other than what it really is. I do also like a finish called ‘textured’ concrete. In this case is ‘stamped’ with very large sheets creating the cleft one would see on a large stone. The patio is then loosely scored for control joints. The result is clearly concrete that is not pretending to be something else, but it has a texture one would find in nature. Textured concrete patios have a comfortable sense of place and can be interesting without being contrived.

Some people can be snobs about concrete patios. I like them when done properly. They can be as nicer than a paver patio depending on the overall landscape design. Concrete offers a great value since it is less expensive than pavers, and it has more structural integrity. But, it must be installed properly with good sub-grade compaction and proper control joints to reduce the risk of any cracking. The quality depends on a professional landscape design and highly qualified concrete installers.

 

Paver Patio Projects, Choices of Styles and Costs in Residential Landscape Projects

Paver Patio Projects

Paver Patio
Paver Patio with Outdoor Fireplace

Concrete paver patio projects are the most common material used for residential patio projects in our region of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. A variety of regional manufacturers produce a range of paver styles, colors and textures. Paver styles tend to evolve with popularity trends. One manufacturer may develop a new stone face texture that gets popular, and then other companies copy that style. The more complex the style, the larger the individual piece sizes, the refinement of the manufacturing process and the companies marketing, administration and overhead costs are all factors in the final product price.

Ten years ago our choices were largely between EP Henry and CST concrete pavers. At that time, EP henry was the first and most highly regarded paver in the region. But CST had a good, simple product line and kept overhead costs low. We liked the color process and the end color appearance of the CST over the EP Henry at the time. We at Garden Design Inc. used mostly CST Roman Cobble pavers back in those days because we liked the colors best and the cost to quality ratio (value) was greatest. In the late 1990’s, all pavers were basic smooth surface and sizes tended to resemble a range of brick sizes or cobblestone sizes.

The choices of styles and paver companies grew significantly as the demand for the product expanded. Techo-Bloc entered the paver market and had been a leader in developing new paver styles that break the old paradigms. Technically speaking, some of these new paver products are considered ‘slabs’ and not pavers, but that level of conversation is not needed for the typical homeowner. Techo-Bloc introduced a textured top meant to appear like the cleft of natural stone. And the larger ‘slabs’ have appealed to more contemporary landscape architectural design. CST, Unilock and Cambridge have all followed suite in their new product lines, neither quite as nice but nor as expensive as Techo-Bloc. EP Henry lost significant market share for a while and struggled to hold its market position without innovating and evolving. But they have come back strong and developed new products that appeal to the consumer today.

Paver patio projects material costs can vary as much as $5.00 per square foot or more. A simple CST roman cobble paver will cost less than $3.00 per square foot. A Techo-Bloc high end ‘Slab’ paver can cost more than $7.00 per square foot. The result is that a paver patio may cost $16 – $24 per square foot for everything involved. The price depends on the total size of the patio, the amount of preparation, and the access to the area. The larger the patio with great access will cost less per square foot than a small patio with terrible access.

The price of paver patio projects is not only linked to the quality of the product. Techo-Bloc is a high quality product, but they also have a large overhead burden based on administrative salaries and a large marketing budget. If your budget is limited, Cambridge or CST make a great product with a streamlined business model to minimize overhead. As with any design material choice, we encourage clients to make timeless choices. Trends and styles come and go, but certain pavers have a character that will always be quality.